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Is there a single word for a person who was ignored by everyone when he was alive, but later people realized his importance after he died? It can also be related to his work, teaching or something like that.

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Do you mean an artist? ;-) –  Jim Jan 15 '13 at 4:55
    
It can be artist . But what do we call them in general? –  Mridul Raj Jan 15 '13 at 4:58
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I don't think a dead person can normally "realise" anything. It's only the living who can posthumously recognise him. –  FumbleFingers Jan 15 '13 at 4:59
    
how about "ahead of their time" –  Jim Jan 15 '13 at 5:00
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Why is this tagged british-english? –  tchrist Jan 15 '13 at 11:43

5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

An unrecognized genius may be posthumously appreciated.

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I think you're on the right track here. I'm not sure there's a single word that explicitly means what the O.P. is after, but I seem to recall hearing phrases like unappreciated during his time or unrecognized by his contemporaries before. –  J.R. Jan 15 '13 at 10:04
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neglected genius –  Dohn Joe Jan 15 '13 at 14:02

Idiomatic phrases like unsung hero and prophet before his time in part have such senses. The latter term implies that the person's importance eventually is recognized. However, as in FumbleFingers' unrecognized genius answer, posthumous appreciation is not a given for an unsung hero. For most of these terms, a person's importance may be recognized before or after death, or may never be recognized.

Also consider sleeper, in its sense “Something that achieves unexpected success after an interval of time”, and dark horse in its sense “An unexpected success”.

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+1 for unsung hero - but it doesn't quite fit OP's requirement. For example, it's probably fair to say Vincent Van Gogh wasn't much recognised during his lifetime, but you could hardly call him an "unsung hero" today. Usually we only use this term when trying to get others to appreciate someone that we already recognise, but most people don't (yet! :) –  FumbleFingers Jan 15 '13 at 5:30

I would call him a visionary unrecognized in his own time.

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You could call that person a pioneer. They are often not recognised for their accomplishments until later (or at least not until after they go into uncharted territory where no other person has tread). I should note that it can also be used to describe someone who is still alive - its definition doesn't exclusively describe a deceased person.

However, it depends on the context in which you use the word.

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I'd say he was "a man ahead of his time" (or "a woman ahead of her time").

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